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Delight your customers and API product owners; deliver MuleSoft powered API’s faster using CI/CD

Posted on: April 10, 2019

by Kevin Jervis, CTO @ Ricston

 

In my previous article I examined how treating connectivity and APIs as digital assets can help organisations bridge the IT delivery gap, by enabling a more adaptable and agile organisation, which is better able to respond to the increasing pace of change (see “overcoming the digital transformation challenge: Part 1, Part 2”).

This time, I wish to turn our attention to the role of automating common and repeatable software development practices into a powerful delivery pipeline. If we consider DevOps as a continuous improvement culture, then continuous integration (CI), continuous delivery (CD) and continuous deployment (CD) are foundational aspects of this culture.

While I’m confident most, if not all, will appreciate the typical stages of a software delivery lifecycle, I’m more interested in how strongly each delivery challenge and representative mitigation below resonates?

Common delivery challenges

Following the observations declared in the diagram above one can appreciate how the development and operations of digital assets, (APIs and integration applications), are considered fragile. Consequently, low confidence in both the process and deliverables it produces becomes common place; and so the delivery processes become optimised to change as few times as possible and rely on “heroic feats” from individuals.

Now unless we’re in Hollywood, heroics are rarely a scalable solution; automated and verifiable processes are your friend!

I continue to see that promotion of integration applications and APIs are too often handled with care, intensive manual testing and are prone to failure; releases are inherently fragile and of questionable quality; and consequently this only serves to reinforce a change-averse culture. Yet, all too frequently organisations appear comfortable with ignoring the elephant in the room. Delivery teams are happy to carry on regardless, with little attempt to improve the current state of affairs!

Too busy to improve illustration

Incidentally “we’re too busy” is cited as a precursor to maintaining the status quo. In reality what is often meant by such comments is actually a broader reflection of impediments manifesting across three aspects of the delivery process: budget, prioritisation and forward-thinking, or rather a lack of those three! It doesn’t have to be like this.

Budget

The construction of continuous deployment pipeline does not come for free; furthermore, it will likely need to consume some of your brightest talents in various capacities. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to consider a delivery pipeline as a side project; far better to recognise it is a key foundation of a broader connectivity platform.

Doing so enables a budget to initially deliver a continuous delivery pipeline MVP (minimum viable product) and continuously refine based on measurable KPIs as you scale adoption successfully throughout your organisation.

Prioritisation

No one expects the business, product owners and development teams to stop the world waiting for some delivery pipeline utopia. Yet, by the same token, leadership cannot afford to continually overlook the detrimental long-term effects on an organisation’s ability to respond to change, and not invest in them.


“If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. What starts as a small win … accumulates into something much more” [… because of the compound nature of the marginal improvements!]


The quote is an example from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Ultimately, what is a continuous improvement approach, but an aggregation of marginal gains over time?

So identify, then prioritise those positive incremental changes aligned to addressing your most significant points of delivery friction in your platform backlog.

Forward thinking

Do not shy away from challenging the status quo; where teams are apprehensive towards automating the execution of tasks they would otherwise do manually, organisations need to address these concerns and enable individuals and teams to see the productivity benefits and potential for growth beyond their current way of working.

Forward thinking delivery teams continuously identify, and relentlessly pursue, automation of repetitive and error-prone manual tasks.  Do not underestimate the power of identifying one or two key individuals to act as champions, able to demonstrate success to organisational doubters and jumpstart the pipeline adoption across delivery teams!

In summary, until organisations acknowledge issues with their existing way of working, they will remain unable to redress them.

Should they choose to embrace change and increase the pace of actionable feedback surrounding their delivery process, it will lead to significant:

  • Improvements in the overall quality of the product that is delivered and the efficiency of the environment through which it is developed;
  • Reduction in the process bottlenecks, such as the overhead of reporting status and test coverage, or re-work associated with issues previously only uncovered in the later stages of the delivery lifecycle;
  • Acceleration through greater self-service capabilities, such as: the provisioning of infrastructure; the availability of environments; and the automated deployment of services and APIs.

A path to success?

How to start

At Ricston we consistently see opportunities for customers to undoubtedly improve their MuleSoft API and integration application delivery experiences.

Setting up CI/CD pipelines are a key enabler to an effective DevOps team and facilitate a culture where failure events are treated as an opportunity to learn and refine the process, with success shared between developers, QA and IT Ops.

Make no mistake, continuous delivery is not simply the exclusive domain of tech-unicorns. Through accepting that change is inevitable and embracing it, traditionally difficult, infrequent and fragile processes can be transformed into repeatable, measurable and seamless paragons of software delivery.

The benefits significantly outweigh the challenges! You can increase the quality of your digital products released into your marketplace while delivering value more quickly and rapidly innovating at the same time.

For further information – please check out our 10 min “CI/CD in action” demo, or view the full webinar, where I demonstrate compelling and tangible rationales for incorporating continuous integration and continuous delivery capabilities into your development and operations lifecycle.

Alternatively, if you are interested in how Ricston can help significantly increase your success and outcomes achievable with MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform, please drop me a line.

Send Kevin a message

Kevin Jervis
CTO